You may not be able to tell by the title, but I am about to anger some of those Catholic surfers who lean more toward the traditionalist side of the scale. This is a fair warning. If you hold the Eucharist in highest esteem and enjoy the ringing of the bells during consecration, do not read further.
Okay, for those who chose to read on I wanted to speak about a disappointment in my worship life. Let me start by telling you about the physical sensation I experience when certain worship topics are brought up. You know the feeling you get when the hairs on your body are rubbed against the grain? That fingernail scratching the chalk board sensation? I have this kind of physical reaction when certain of my “hot buttons” are pushed. The definition of a hot button is a controversial subject or issue that is likely to arouse strong emotions, and I can tell you there are subjects that send me off the edge immediately. Because I have such a strong emotional reaction to central tenets of traditionalist Catholic worship, I have been known to blurt out angry comments when my buttons are pushed. This has led me to avoid social circumstances where my buttons can be pushed, such as Sunday Mass. In Catholic circles the purposeful avoidance of Sunday Mass is heinous, but if I allow myself to speak freely about those hot button issues I will become a pariah in my community. Believe it or not, it is better if I simply let my community believes that I am too lazy to get up and go to Sunday Mass. Lazy is better than evil, which I have been called in the past.
Now that you have the backdrop let me explain my disappointment. Read the passage that follows and tell me if you can spot the hot button.
“The Lord entrusts to you [priest(s)] the mystery of this Sacrament [Eucharist]. In his Name you can say: ‘This is my Body …. This is my Blood.’ Allow yourselves to be drawn ever anew by the Holy Eucharist, by communion of life with Christ. Consider the center of each day the possibility to celebrate the Eucharist worthily. Lead people ever anew to this Mystery. Help them, starting from this, to bring the peace of Christ into the world” (Pope Benedict XVI, Homily at Mass and priestly ordinations on Pentecost, May 15, 2005).
(A time of sacred silence should be observed.)
Novena Day 1: That Priests will Celebrate the Eucharist Worthily
Did anything bother you in that reflection? Well, my hot buttons are probably different than yours. Let me try to elucidate. The title of this blog post is a quote from Luke 24: 32 which is a favorite Jesus story of mine. The road to Emmaus is both a blessing and a heartache to my current worship difficulties.
In the story a Priest, a Rabbi, and a Minister walk into a bar… Okay, a little humor to cut into my misery may seem out of place but it helps me cope. In the story two fellows meet Jesus on the road to Emmaus. They presumably knew who Jesus was from past encounters, but they didn’t recognize him on the road. They listened while Jesus talked. When they reach Emmaus the fellows convince Jesus to stay with them for a meal. At the meal, specifically when Jesus said Grace before passing out the bread, the fellows recognized Jesus. They then said to one another “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
The traditionalist Catholic will say something like “See, we meet Jesus in the celebration of the Eucharist.” After this statement I will blurt out something like “What? Didn’t you hear what the fellows said about how they met Jesus while he opened up scripture?” This might be a good point to note that I don’t want to get into a tangential discussion regarding the sitz im leben but I do understand the symbolism of the Biblical act of breaking bread.
After I blurt out that Eucharist is not the center of the universe, people run away from me screaming the prayer to St. Michael.
As the English speaking Catholic community prepares to usher in a new Roman Missal the Bishops have started a Novena that will lead up to the first Sunday of Advent. What words did they choose as a reflection for the first day? Anybody? Anybody? Bueller? “The Lord entrusts to you [priest(s)] the mystery of this Sacrament [Eucharist]. In his Name you can say: ‘This is my Body …. This is my Blood.’ Allow yourselves to be drawn ever anew by the Holy Eucharist, by communion of life with Christ. Consider the center of each day the possibility to celebrate the Eucharist worthily.” Just reading these words again as I add them to this blog has caused my blood to boil.
How can we allow our leaders of the Church to be so focused on one act that was not the center of each day for Jesus? The disciples on the road to Emmaus did not find Jesus in the breaking of bread, but in his teaching. Before Vatican II there were Catholics who would wait until they heard the Church Building bells on Sunday, announcing the prayers of consecration, to arrive. This was so that they could receive the Eucharist. It was considered by them to be the center of each Sunday. Vatican II asked that the bells stop ringing during the Eucharist celebration because there should be no differentiation between the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. They stopped ringing for a while, but they are back with a vengeance. When the bells ring during the Liturgy of the Eucharist they take me out of the worship service and I cannot stop thinking about how this was the pay-off for most of the Church sitting in the pews.
I would like to hear our Church leaders say that the Eucharist is a nice remembrance but what will really bring you closer to God throughout the week is listening to the Holy Spirit. Teaching the Church in the pews to respond to their hearts burning within them, as the Holy Spirit meets them on their daily road, should be the center of each leader’s day. I will save my diatribe on why the Pope is so focused on the Eucharist for another blog post.